The mixing of heaven and earth is the stuff of our faith. Jesus loved to talk about the ways God’s kingdom could be found on the pages of our daily lives: mustard seeds, branches, water and wine; fields, coins, sheep and farmers… the list could go on forever. Our Creed even declares that in Jesus himself heaven and earth are inexplicably combined. Yet over the years we’ve become pretty good at keeping heaven and earth separate, haven’t we? The very term “religious” betrays the belief that things of faith belong in a category distinct from the things of everyday life.
Perhaps the distinction between heaven and earth, sacred and profane, is the reason I sometimes encounter surprised concern when I tell people about our new service at the college, “Pints & Compline.” Pints & Compline is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of us hanging out at a pub downtown and finishing the evening with a BCP Compline service. It’s wonderful. Why? Probably because, as we sit there together with our empty nacho plates and pint glasses, our thoughts still wandering through theological ideas and university gossip, we get the sense that our faith is the stuff of everyday life. It matters.
It’s become popular of late to talk about “incarnational faith,” a term that, while somewhat ambiguous, tries to get at the importance of mixing things of the spirit with things of the body. And if incarnational faith offends, we shouldn’t be too surprised. It certainly invoked its share of offence in the circles Jesus hung out in! Those who do not share our faith are concerned about a prayer service in the pub because religion should be kept private. Those who do share our faith are concerned that the holy things of God are being degraded when they are taken into such a mundane setting.
But we mainliners- and I must include myself here- seem to have forgotten where Jesus hung out. Jesus loved churches and monasteries, true, but he spent most of his time by the lakeshore and in pubs and grocery stores and youth drop-ins. His goal was to go to where the people were, not to wait until those people came to him. The model of church we’ve developed over the last several hundred years is called “attractional” church and it is not enough for my students. They cannot understand a faith that is kept in tidy little boxes and returned to the shelf every Sunday afternoon.
I believe that what students need- perhaps what we all need- is a faith which mixes heaven and earth. They are looking for the places that the sacred breaks into the profane and they long for a God that shows up in class, on the bus, and even at the nightclub. They call this “authenticity” but it could also just be called honesty. Our faith has real implications for every part of our lives, from relationships and finances to the workplace and vacation time.
I think that people like Pints & Compline because it takes the pressure off to “be religious.” When we repeat together the ancient words of night prayer, there is no pretense, no rules and no pressure; just the normal days of our normal lives walking beside Jesus. And I think Jesus likes the mundane. He did, after all, call it “very good”!